On 14 occasions in his gospel record, Matthew uses a word from which we get our English word “scandal.” Arndt and his fellow lexicographers define the word as meaning “to cause to be brought to a downfall; to shock through word or action” (BDAG 926). Jesus was at times the cause of others experiencing anger or shock through what He said and did. While Jesus uses the word to condemn those whose words and actions cause themselves and others to stumble (5:29,30; 18:6,8-9), it more often refers to those who took offense at what He said or did. He was not a poor example or stumbling block. The problem for many was that what Jesus stood for and taught was unpopular, difficult, or contrary to fleshly desires.
Does living the Christian life ever cause us to run the risk of being scandalous to the world? Share Jesus’ sexual ethics and expectations. Tell others Jesus’ exclusive salvation message. Stand up for His doctrine. Condemn what He would condemn. Any number of social causes celebrated in our society crash against the teaching of Jesus. When you stand with Him, you can expect the world (and sometimes even the weak among God’s people) to “take offense” (11:16; 13:57; 15:12; 26:31).
We should never be a scandal because of unrighteous behavior (see those passages in chapters 5 and 18). We should never go out of our way to be offensive. But, we should know that walking with Jesus will lead us to scandalize some. What will comfort us is knowing that standing with the Scandalized Savior will keep Him from taking offense at us! Nothing is more important than that.
I was more than a little amused to read one of the latest offerings at the offbeat online food site “Munchies” (munchies.vice.com). While it seems to be having fun with the overkill-reporting of all movements millennial, they give hard data to support the idea that those in the age range of 18-34 are forsaking fast-food chains and sit-down restaurants in deference to convenience stores with their nachos, taquitos and slurpies. This data is being interpreted as a reflection on their tendency to impulse buy or be lured in by novelty.
Having at least two children who would fit the broad definition of “millennials,” I am always trying to figure out how this demographic ticks. It seems that every news story featuring them, as a generation, casts them as fickle, rebellious, self-serving, or disconnected from the rest of society. While they have inherited some broken systems (educationally, economically, religiously, etc.) and, as such, may naturally feel some distrust and disdain for those responsible, stereotypes and broad brushes are usually faulty.
When I view Christian millennials, having spoken with a great many of them over the past few years, I see a group intent on doing great things for Christ. They don’t want to hear plans for helping the poor and needy; they want to organize and supply manpower for doing it. They want more than Bible classes and sermons on soul-winning; they want to see their “role models” doing it and involving them in it. They don’t want to simply accept our word for it on why we do what we do in worship and doctrine; they want well-thought-out explanations and demonstrations of book, chapter, and verse.
Today’s millennials are on the frontline of a battlefield more daunting than any living generation before them. The prince of this world has attempted to brainwash and indoctrinate them with his lies. The institutions of our culture actively seek to redefine right and wrong for them.
So many of the Christian millennials I know are eager to serve as soldiers in the Lord’s Army. They may disparage some of the “established” forms not founded upon the Rock, but the kind of faith they are developing and must grow will be anything but “convenient.” They may have to pay a higher price for holding onto their faith than any of us did at their age. May we have the wisdom and take the time to mentor, encourage, love, and assist them in influencing a world so rapidly changing. They can do it, and we must help. God certainly will (cf. Rom. 8:37-39)!